1. Background:

The Accra High Level Forum

Donor, partner governments and civil society organizations (CSOs) will come together in Accra Ghana during the first week of September 2008 in the Third High Level Forum (HLF3) to review the implementation of the 2005 Paris Declaration. In the lead-up to the HLF3 civil society organizations globally are undertaking consultations, research and advocacy on the effectiveness of aid in relation to its impact on poverty and inequality. CSOs will be pressing donors and partner governments to not only meet their Paris commitments to 2010, but also to significantly deepen their reforms of aid as an effective catalyst that truly contributes to ending global poverty. Many CSOs in the Reality of Aid Network will be participating in these consultations in the latter part of 2007 and in a multi-stakeholder forum in Canada in February 2008.

CSOs in Ghana, in coordination with an International CSO Steering Committee, will be preparing a parallel CSO Forum to be held just prior to the HLF3 to develop CSO perspectives on aid reform and to make proposals for the Accra Agenda for Action, the outcome of the HLF. The Reality of Aid Report 2008 will bring together CSO analysis and key proposals on aid effectiveness from Reality of Aid CSO members in Asia, Africa, the Americas and OECD countries. The 2008 Report will be launched in Accra at the time of the HLF3.

The Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness

The Paris Declaration, with the agreement of 23 donors and 57 partner country governments, marks a significant set of donor commitments to improve the effectiveness of aid. According to the Declaration, the intended purpose of the reforms is to accelerate achievement of goals for poverty reduction, including the 2015 Millennium Development Goals. However, the Declaration focuses, not on development effectiveness, that is, the conditions required for effective and sustained reduction in global poverty and inequality, but on donor and government institutional reforms for a more effective and efficient aid regime. The assumption is that these reforms will meet the stated goals for poverty reduction. CSOs, in response, have challenged donors and partner governments to answer the questions: Aid effectiveness for what purposes? Aid effectiveness for whom? Aid effectiveness as measured by whom? Increasingly CSOs are working with a human right framework in their own answers to these questions.

The Declaration reforms clearly acknowledge the primary importance of “country ownership”, which donors define as effective developing country leadership over their development policies and strategies. Developing country governments, on their part, agree to lead with effective national development strategies and institutional reforms for the management of development resources, to which donors will respond. But, despite donor rhetoric on the centrality of “local ownership”, donor-imposed economic policy and governance conditions continue to shape all facets of development in these countries, undermining the rights of their citizens to determine the directions and implementation of development policies by their governments.

While many of the Paris Declaration reforms have been welcomed, the Reality of Aid has argued that they fail to go nearly far enough. The Declaration fails to tackle deep-seated obstacles that have stood in the way of aid, as an effective resource to address the acute conditions facing poor and marginalized people, including fundamentally important issues such as gender equality. More far-reaching, reforms are urgently needed. The 2008 Reality of Aid Report will focus on directions and proposals for these reforms. As such, it builds upon themes in the 2002, 2004 and 2006 Reports – on ownership and conditionality, on governance and human rights, and on conflict, security and development cooperation.

2. Reality of Aid 2008 Report Theme and Structure

The theme of the 2008 Report is aid effectiveness guided by international human rights norms, including democratic ownership, the principles of transparency, participation, and accountability.

The Reality of Aid 2008 Report will argue that “ownership” must be democratic and rights-based. It is the result of strong engagement by movements and organizations representing citizens, and particularly women and vulnerable and marginalized groups, who are deeply affected by poverty and inequality. Efforts for poverty reduction must include the space for organized efforts of poor people and organizations to claim and promote their rights.

Both donors and country partner governments have largely endorsed international human rights standards elaborated in various United Nations Covenants and regional human rights instruments. These Covenants oblige both donor and partner governments to maximize their efforts to progressively realize citizens’ social and economic rights, taking into account key principles of participation, non-discrimination and special attention to vulnerable groups. Such a framework would link reform in the operational aid practices of donors and governments, the subject of the Paris Declaration, to the implementation of rights-based development plans, which, unlike current PRSPs, would be comprehensive and specific to country situations, elaborated and monitored with full transparency and participation of citizens and parliamentarians.

Structure of the Report

An Introductory Political Chapter in the 2008 Report will highlight five or six sharp overarching messages on the theme of aid effectiveness: democratic ownership and human rights. This Chapter will briefly summarize the analytical basis for these key messages as well as point to evidence arising from the contributions to the Report from members of the Network. These messages will be refined from a range of proposals made at the Nairobi Global Meeting of the Network (see the attached key messages document).

These central messages will be premised on the fundamental importance of international human rights law as the framework for understanding and assessing aid as an effective means for development cooperation to eliminate poverty and inequality. The chapter will stress the critical importance of citizens’ engagement and empowerment, particular those living in poverty and otherwise marginalized, in the contribution of aid to achieve these goals.

The key messages for aid effectiveness that follow from a human rights framework include issues related to democracy and diversity in the notion of ownership and the roles and voice of civil society organizations in these processes. It will call for aid practices that are consistent with human rights approaches and democratic ownership. For example, ending the use of policy conditionality is essential, considering that such practices subvert democratic ownership as well as the stated goals and principles of the Paris Declaration. Mutual accountability will not be realized if all stakeholders, including the International Financial Institutions, do not accept co-responsibility for the impact of aid on poverty and inequality. The management and monitoring of these reforms require democratic and equitable governance of the aid regime itself.


These overarching themes, among others, will be developed by the Management Committee based on contributions by members of the Network. Members can contribute country case studies or issue/theme based chapters, organized under the following Sub-Themes:

1. Democratic Ownership

Under this theme, the Report will examine questions about who owns and who drives the development process and the integration of aid resources into development objectives at the country level. It not only looks at the roles of citizens, parliaments and CSOs and donors, but also at the question of leadership by government (democratic institutions, political will to provide leadership based on the interests of citizens (particularly those living in poverty and marginalized), and capacity). In this context, it will also examine the role of donors and conditionality and how conditionality subverts democratic ownership. What conditions underpin these rights of citizens? What enabling role can aid play? What are the implications for effective aid interventions in countries affected by conflict and the absence of democratic governance?

2. Implementation of the Paris Declaration

Under this theme, the Report will examine practices and contradictions in the implementation of the Paris Declaration, including the continued practice of tied aid, the role of loans as aid, questions about the predictability of aid for meeting the goals of the Paris Declaration, alignment to what strategies, the potential subversion of the goals of the Paris Declaration by increased donor selectivity and donor instrumentalization of aid for their foreign policy interests, and the absence of commitments on conditionality. It will develop the notion that the achievement of all five principles of the Paris Declaration are inter-related and each will only be realized to the degree that democratic ownership is achieved in a given country.

3. International Financial Institutions

The harmonization of donor practices, called for in The Paris Declaration, , accentuates the power of multilateral institutions, in which the poorest developing countries have little say on IMF/World Bank aid priorities and their accompanying development policy blueprints for developing countries. Under this theme, the Report will discuss the role of the IFIs as gatekeepers, the ways in which these institutions have instrumentalize the Paris Declaration for their own policy interests and have integrated their conditionalities into the aid system (through harmonization and alignment). Case studies will demonstrate the ways in which their practices undermine the intent of the Paris Declaration for democratic ownership.

4. Accountability

Under this theme, the Report will examine the different dimensions of accountability and the fundamental importance of transparency for accountability. What are implications of co-responsibility North/South for the outcomes of development cooperation, the mechanisms of accountability, and the role of CSOs and other actors in accountability? For example, how can donors reform aid practices to eliminate policy conditionality, while retaining fiduciary and accountability requirements? In the context of a highly unequal aid relationship, what reforms will donors undertake to assure transparency, predictability, and appropriate resources in development partnerships? What models of accountability might assure more equitable assessments of commitments and performance?

5. Rights-Based Approaches to the Management of Aid

Under this theme, the Report will examine issues of aid allocation, prioritization, and the empowerment of the poor in the context of a rights-based approach. What does a rights-based approach imply for the practices of donors, governments and CSOs in their efforts to improve the effectiveness of aid? Alignment to a rights framework would require donor and government practices that prioritize accountability to citizens over accountability only to donor interests and pre-determined priorities.

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